Saturday 15 August, 2020

US will withdraw visas for foreign students if classes move online

[iStock.com/Tomazi]

[iStock.com/Tomazi]

Foreign students will not be allowed to stay in the United States if their classes have been moved from traditional classrooms to online for the Fall semester.

On Monday the Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) announced modifications to temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students taking online courses.

Non-immigrant students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes will be allowed to stay in the US as they are bound by existing federal regulations.

A statement from the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said these students are allowed to take a maximum of one class, the equivalent of three credit hours online.

However, students whose classes will be offered solely online will have to return home.

“Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

The government-issued release further stated that those students who are attending schools that have adopted a hybrid model, a mixture of online and in-person classes will be allowed to take more than one class online.

These schools, however, are required to prove to the SEVP that students are taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree programmes.

The aforementioned exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursuing vocational degrees, as they aren’t allowed to enrol in any online courses.

Schools have been advised to update their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System within 10 days if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to online classes.

“Nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant statuses such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SEVP implemented temporary exemptions which allowed non-immigrant students to take more online courses than is usually permitted during the spring and summer semesters.

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